a. Also, the mule symbolizes the relationship between “the white man and the black man” and “the black man and the black woman.” This can be seen clearly through Nanny’s view of the situation when she says, “So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his women folks. De nigger woman is de mule oh de world as fur as Ah can see” (Hurston 14).
II. Another important symbol is that of the pear tree.
a. The pear tree presents the ideal relationship between women and men. The key to the novel is Janie's idea of marriage, which is pitted against other, less romantic, ideas of marriage in the book.
b. Janie gets her definition of marriage from nature. When she is sixteen, her sexuality awakens as she watches “the mystery” of a blossoming pear tree in her back yard
c. Through Janie’s vision, the pear tree presents the ideal relationship, both sexual and emotional, between women and men.
i. The male bee is not aggressive or rapacious: he gently “sinks” into the blossom, and the female flower is not passive: she “arches to meet the love embrace.” It is the marriage of such active femaleness and gentle masculinity, it is fundamental equality, that results in fruit. (2) ii. “Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree”. Though Janie was sexually desired during her first marriage, she was not treated with respect and dignity iii. Janie’s second husband, Jody Starks, also falls short of the fetishized pear tree. Jody is controlling of Janie as a result of his jealousy because of her good looks. He does not offer Janie any freedom to experience life. It is not until her final marriage that the dream of the tree is realized
d. This is Janie’s idealized view of nature. It is beauty and pleasure that she keeps chasing after throughout the rest of the story.
i. The pear tree and the horizon represent Janie's idealized views of nature. The horizon represents the far-off mystery of the natural world, with which she longs to connect. ii. Janie's hauling in of her horizon “like a great fish-net” at the end of the novel indicates that she has achieved the harmony with nature that she has sought since the moment under the pear tree.
e. The hurricane, another important symbol, symbolizes the destructive fury of nature to free the black women from a threatening heterosexual relationship and purify and reject those characters who have betrayed the democratic and culturally autonomous values of black life on the muck.
i. The hurricane functions as a destroyer of white power and as an eraser of artificial distinctions and hierarchies.
f. In addition to the pear tree image of femininity, the mule symbol also represents womanhood.
i. This is very clearly introduced when Janie’s grandmother explains that black women are mules. ii. The symbol is used as a metaphor during Janie’s second marriage to Jody Starks when Eatonville resident Matt Bonner is teased by the other residents because he is unable to control his mule. The mule is pushed around and prodded by the townspeople. Here the mule represents Janie’s own gender entrapment (103). iii. The mule is not mentioned again in…